Test Your Supplements Savvy

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Should you or shouldn’t you pop one, two, or 10 pills full of vitamins, minerals, and/or other hard-to-pronounce dietary additives?

The decision about whether to take supplements risk developing serious vitamin or mineral toxicities,” warns Tallmadge.

While illnesses resulting from mega-does of vitamins and minerals are rare, it’s better to be safe than sorry, Tallmadge says. “The scientific research is lacking on the long-term safety of large doses of supplements,” she warns.

Taking a daily multivitamin, on the other hand, won’t put you at risk of overdoing it, says Blumberg. “The risk of dietary deficiencies is far greater than the risk of overdosing on vitamin and mineral supplements,” he says.

Food First

Experts say it’s important to keep in mind that supplements are intended to enhance, not take the place of, a healthy diet. That’s because food offers so much more than vitamins and minerals.

“It is safer to get calcium, riboflavin, vitamins D, B-12, and A, and iodine. According to an American Dietetic Association position paper, a well-planned eating plan — which may include supplements — can meet your requirements for these nutrients. Seek the services of a registered dietitian to ensure your healthy eating plan. The problem is that most of us don’t, even with the best of intentions. For nutritional insurance, do your best to eat a healthful diet and make it a habit to take a daily multi.

8. What time of day should you take supplements?

a. Before
b. With meals
c. Before bed

Answer: b. Blumberg recommends taking supplements with meals — ideally, with the largest meal of the day — to maximize absorption and minimize stomach upset. But, he adds, whatever time of day you’re most likely to remember to consistently take your supplement is the best time for you.

9. True or false: Supplements can boost your energy.

Answer: False. Despite some label claims, the only way to get energy is from carbohydrates, proteins, or fats (or even alcohol). Vitamins and minerals do not provide energy. Blumberg’s advice is to stick to a basic multivitamin and avoid supplements with added botanicals or herbs that claim to boost energy.

10. True or false: Athletes need special supplements to enhance their performance.

Answer: False. Athletes who eat enough calories to cover their nutritional needs will get all the nutrients they need in their diets, Blumberg says. “There is relatively little evidence that athletic performance can be enhanced with additional vitamins or minerals,” he says.